You have to be willing to completely suspend disbelief in order to enjoy The Following. Otherwise, don’t watch the show because from the very beginning there are plot holes so big they could form new galaxies. Once you start watching though you won’t be able to stop. The Following is as addictive as it is unbelievable.

The show centers on convicted serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) and the ex-FBI agent who put him away Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon.) Hardy, who wears a pacemaker as a result of his near deadly encounter with Carroll, has written a book about his experience and descended into the life of a lonely alcoholic. He’s roused from his self-destructive spiral when he’s called back into service after Carroll escapes from prison.

The first couple of episodes, which set up Carroll’s use of Edgar Allen Poe’s writings in his crimes, are the weakest. The agents act astounded when they hear the phrase “The eyes are the window to the soul” as if this observation, which has become a cliché were a novel idea. This is heavy-handed, paint by numbers Poe symbolism that a middle school student could easily decipher.  

As the show progresses, the writers smartly put less emphasis on Poe and it’s the emerging cult slowly nurtured by Carroll while he was in prison that moves into the forefront of the story. Carroll has amassed a network of followers who commit crimes at his command and help him keep one step ahead of Hardy and the FBI. The cult aspect is fascinating. It’s hard to believe that there would be so many damaged individuals who would follow this man yet in 1978 over 900 people in Jonestown, Guyana committed mass suicide at the behest of their cult leader Jim Jones.

The Following’s psychological exploration of these murderous misfits is one of its strengths. The characters are so well drawn and multi-dimensional that you’ll find yourself empathizing with them while at the same time feeling repelled by their actions.    

Bacon as the tortured Hardy and Purefoy as the charming but ruthless Carroll are both equally magnetic and intense.  Their strong performances ground a show that could easily take off in the wrong direction. The supporting cast is up to the challenge and does not disappoint.

Sharing any more details about The Following would reveal developments that would take away from the fun of watching the show. Besides the cult members and Hardy and Carroll’s interplay, it’s the insane plot twists that will keep you coming back week after week.

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